There’s certainly no shortage of famous attractions, interesting museums and historic sites for travellers to visit on their trip to London, but what if you’re staying for a while, or this isn’t your first time in the city, and you’re looking for something a bit different to do? I moved to London just over a year ago and I am always on the lookout for places to visit outside the usual tourist spots during the weekend, so from my personal experience, here are a few of my recommendations for slightly quirky activities to try…
Visit the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities
In the hipster hotspot borough of Hackney you can find what is possibly the weirdest and tiniest museum that I have ever visited. In the basement of The Last Tuesday Society bar (make sure to stop for one of their lovely cocktails while you’re there) is a collection of bizarre, eccentric and very niche artifacts, curated by the eponymous artist Mr Wynd and funded by a kickstarter campaign to set it up a few years ago. For such a small space there is an incredible amount of items on display; I’m sure you could visit again and find something you missed last time. There is no theme to the collections; there’s essentially a bit of everything, from taxidermy to celebrity poo. You do need to go in with the awareness that you may well find something in there offensive, or at the very least, uncomfortable (and it’s certainly not suitable for children), but if you’re looking for a unique museum experience and the opportunity to see things that you are highly unlikely to ever see elsewhere, then Viktor Wynd most definitely provides that.
How to get there: take the London Overground from Liverpool Street to Cambridge Heath, or take the Central Line and get off at Bethnal Green.
Take a walk along a disused railway line
This walk along the old railway line between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace is a popular weekend activity amongst North London locals. Start at Finsbury Park, following the signs for the Parkland Walk (you can also find it marked on Google Maps), and you’ll pass through wooded areas which make you forget you’re in London, sections where the old platforms are clearly visible, and a gargoyle-esque sculpture (make sure you look up!) allegedly based on a “goat-man” which was said to haunt this path in the 1970s and 1980s. The walk definitely has a spooky edge to it in some sections, and urban legend has it that Stephen King was inspired to write his short story Crouch End after visiting friends living around here and taking the Parkland Walk himself. There’s also another gothic element in the bat cave just before the route takes you up into Highgate; a bat sanctuary in a dark tunnel behind some iron gates. I’ve never had any luck spotting any bats when peering in, but do take a peek!
In Highgate the walk takes you along the edge of Highgate Woods, another lovely and surprising green space, and uphill into a path through Muswell Hill, where you’ll be greeted with your first stunning views of the London skyline, then onto Alexandra Palace (known colloquially as Ally Pally). Head up to the main building to grab a well-deserved drink from the bar and settle down at one of the outdoor tables to enjoy more fantastic views over the city, and see which landmarks you can pick out.
The whole walk is about 2.5 miles or 4 kilometres in length, and is fairly easy, with a little uphill gradient. It can be muddy in sections if there has been rain recently, so do wear appropriate footwear.
How to get there: I recommend starting at Finsbury Park, which is on both the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines, and also on mainline train routes out of Kings Cross and Moorgate. Alexandra Palace has a mainline station for trains back into Kings Cross or Moorgate, or you could catch a bus back to Finsbury Park Station for the Tube.
Have a go at urban axe-throwing
When my friends invited me to join them in an urban axe-throwing session at Whistle Punks one Saturday afternoon last summer, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It turns out it’s literally that; you go into a warehouse in Vauxhall where you are taught how to throw an axe at a target both effectively and safely, and then compete with another group to see who will be crowned axe-throwing champion. The downside of this one for solo travellers is that you need to go in as part of a group – you can’t just join one on the day – so if you want to give this a go you’ll need to find some other travellers who are also keen, but if you can get a group together then this is a fun way to spend a couple of hours and learn some new skills!
How to get there: Whistle Punks London is located in Vauxhall which is on the Victoria Line and also on mainline train routes out of Waterloo.
Visit Highgate Cemetery
I’m actually quite a big fan of wandering around cemeteries, looking at the details on the tombstones, and I find it even more interesting when there are some famous names amongst them. There are thousands of graves in this sprawling site. You can walk into the East Cemetery (where you’ll find the most well-known buried resident, Karl Marx) for a small entrance fee during opening hours and explore by yourself, and the West Cemetery is open for guided tours which you can book onto on the day. The tour is an opportunity to see some fabulous architecture within the cemetery, but if you just want to wander the East side then you’ll find plenty of names of interest; as well as Karl Marx, I particularly liked Douglas Adams’ grave (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, decorated with an assortment of pens.
How to get there: take the Northern Line and get off at Highgate.
Visit the world’s first Vagina Museum
I’ve already written about this brilliant little museum located in Camden Markets, which is dedicated to all things vagina. It only opened in November 2019 so it is still in its first iteration, with big plans to grow. It’s free to enter and the exhibits are thought-provoking and prompt important conversations about how society tries to force vagina-owners to feel about their bodies. There’s a fantastic tiny gift shop and plenty of events running there too. For me this is a must-do for anyone passing through London.
How to get there: take the Northern Line and get off at Camden Town or Chalk Farm.
Do you have your own tips for unusual activities for visitors to London to try? Please do share in the comments!
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